The B-Movie Isle: Slingin’ Arrow Video Edition (07/13/17)
The B-Movie Isle a small written (sometimes) weekly companion piece to the B-Movie Podcast.
Every B Movie is an Isle onto itself. The B-Movie Isle recommends a few films either being released or already released in theaters, VOD, streaming or on Blu-Ray/DVD. These are not going to be blockbusters but those movies you’ll probably find in the door buster clearance bin. Films that people told you weren’t worth your time or you may have not heard about. You and I know they’re just un-enlightened to the beauty of a killer B-Movie!!!
THE TOP SHELF TITLE AKA FEATURED TITLE OF THE WEEK
The Film: Pulse aka Kairo is the type of film that is designed to stay with you long after you finished watching it. Released during the height of the J-Horror craze, this is a masterwork of tension and dread. As all great horror films, Pulse is thematically about more than ghosts in the machines but about people’s fears of isolation and loneliness in our social media age. Writer Director Kiyoshi Kurosawa slowly builds tension and anxiety out of malaise and depression. In Kurosawa’s hands the apocalypse doesn’t happen abruptly with fire and brimstone but with a slow prolonged final gasp of air.
The film is elegantly designed to specifically not answer the mundane questions that most horror films and causal fans would want answered. The lack of answers makes this film all the more terrifying. Why are people killing themselves? Why should you not enter rooms sealed off with red tape? What is this disc that people are compelled to put into their computer? Why are some affected by this almost supernatural virus and some are not? Kurosawa understands that answering the questions rob the film of its power. Pulse is almost primal in its horror; the fear of isolation, the fear of death, the fear of the unknown of the beyond. These are every day basic of human emotions. Kurosawa as a filmmaker understands that horror, terror, dread all count on a bit of the unknown and is resigned to never fully explain. Which is the most refreshing aspect of Pulse, even at its end very little has been explained but one understands everything.
Pulse was released fifteen years too soon as the film feeds right into our current social media anxiety filled days.
The Transfer: Arrow has been given a wonderful transfer from Daiei. The film shot on 35mm using the Bleach Bypass process (made famous by David Fincher/Darius Khonji on Seven). The burnt out browns and contrast are beautifully reproduced here. The film is dependent on darkness for much of the film’s story points. A lesser transfer would lose all definition within the blacks, thus causing a lesser experience. Here Arrow has modulated the transfer perfectly allowing for even during the darkest of scenes true definitions in the shadows.
- Broken Circuits: a new video interview with writer/director Kiyoshi Kurosawa
- Creepy Images: a new video interview with cinematographer Junichiro Hayashi
- The Horror of Isolation: a new video appreciation featuring Adam Wingard & Simon Barrett (Blair Witch, You’re Next)
- Original ‘Making of’ documentary, plus four archive behind-the-scenes featurettes
- Premiere footage from the Cannes Film Festival
- Cast and crew introductions from opening day screenings in Tokyo
- Trailers and TV Spots
Arrow has provided a wealth of thoughtful extra features on this disc. The interviews with Kurosawa and cinematographer Junichiro Hayashi are informed and honest in a way that many filmmakers are not. Kurosawa is especially honest, wondering why so many love this film (sir, it’s because it’s a stone cold classic). The archival material such as the original Making Of, featurettes, Premier footage from both Cannes (yes it played Cannes) and Opening Day Screening in Tokyo really help reveal just how big of a deal that this film was and still is.
The Bottom Shelf: This should be an insta-purchase for any B-Movie fan. Pulse has slipped through the cracks of J-Horror mania and a really bad American Remake. This Arrow Video edition makes the best case to correct this terrible ill. Pulse should be regarded as highly as Ringu… Yeah, I just said that. BOOMSHAKALAKA!
The Film: Country Bumpkin of a Cop comes to the big city (in straw hat and pig in tow no less) to find a missing persons. Before you start the eye roll this film stars Sonny Chiba. That got your attention didn’t it?
Doberman Cop plays pretty much as a straight ahead action police procedural. There is the occasional moment of levity, mostly provided by the deadpan delivery or look by Chiba. This is a cool piece of action cinema with Chiba kicking all kinds of butt. The film is part serial killer mystery, part Yakuza thriller, part A Star is Born style rise to fame with Chiba in the center of this Cinematic Udon.
Director Kinji Fukasaku (Battle Royale, Wolf Guy) is in complete control over this film. His skills being able to move from comedy to action to drama come in handy here as the film moves all over the place. At the center is Chiba, coolest cat in the world playing just like that. Chiba plays Joji Kano as the calm of a storm that will do just about anything to get what he needs. The film is at its best as Chiba stonefaced watches corrupt or inept cops circle around him like he’s a hayseed out of his element. Part of the fun of this film is watching just how competent Kano is with his hands, give him a .44 Magnum… fuggedaboutit!!!
For a film that juggles quite a few things it manages to put all the pieces together at the end in a way that isn’t cluttered or confusing. Each part of the Cinematic Udon gets a satisfying resolution. Part of the fun of the film is seeing how Fukasaku is able to pull it all off with the amount of grace and style he does. The biggest regret upon watching this film you will have is there isn’t a Doberman Cop 2, Doberman Cop 3, Doberman Cop goes to America all starring Chiba and directed by Fukasaku.
The Transfer: Toei has given Arrow Video decent transfer of the film. Considering this is the first time the film’s been released outside of Japan it’s frankly shocking it looks as good as it does.
- Beyond the Film: Doberman Cop, a new video appreciation by Fukasaku biographer Sadao Yamane
- New video interview with actor Shinichi “Sonny” Chiba
- New video interview with screenwriter Koji Takada
- Original theatrical trailer
Over 45 minutes of interview content the extras give you an understanding of just how this awesome piece of cinema slipped through the cracks. The interview with Chiba is actually a continuation of the interview he did for Wolf Guy. Chiba is as lively as ever discussing his relationship with Kinji Fukasaku. Chiba’s interview is the best feature though the interview with Yamane and Takada both give context to Doberman Cop.
The Bottom Shelf: Arrow’s exploration of Kinji Fukasaku’s career is pretty fantastic. Doberman Cop can be added to Battles without Honor or Humanity and Cop vs. Thugs as a worthy entry though much lighter and a lot more fun than those series.
The Film: Madhouse isn’t necessarily a great movie but it sure is an entertaining one. Directed by an Italian that would eventually be part owner of Cannon Films, filmed in the US with an entire Italian crew informs on how truly strange everything is. The film has that sort of arched tone that Italian genre films can have that if you’re the right audience, is a great time. Luckily for Madhouse, I’m that type of audience member.
The film is your standard horror/slasher revenge story concerning twin sisters (this is non-spoiler because it happens at the beginning of the film). We’ve seen, and the B-Movie Isle, has talked about this Good Twin/Bad Twin troupe previously. Instead of a Sorority Rush Week or Italian Supermodels this time we have a teacher at a school for the Hard of Hearing a few days away from her birthday. The film takes its time showing Julia Sullivan (Trish Everly) and the life she lives and how slowly but surely it’s all taken away from her. Madhouse has a bit of a sadistic/mean streak in it and is not above killing anyone and everyone in Julia’s life. The most shocking kill and its aftermath is played with such reality and honesty that everything else in the film feels trite. The film attempted to play this sort of seriousness throughout but just cannot stand the weight of its own narrative setup. The film’s “shocking” ending feels like it’s been telegraphed since the end of the first act. At its end it’s a welcome discovery but its reputation definitely proceeds it for unknown reasons.
What the film lacks in narrative more than makes up in visual style. The film is beautiful and stylish using the 2.35 widescreen frame for maximum effect. This film’s narrative may have been seen time and time again and the twin troupe has been done so much by this point it’s almost a joke circa 1981. Adding other clichés that would spoil the last 20 minutes of the movie only confounds you after watching what is a fairly decent slow burn psychological horror taunt film. There are a few pieces that are just outright hilarious such as the dog puppet that mauls people, some of the Makeup FX. Minus those strange but hilarious hiccups the film ultimately works.
The Transfer: The film looks gorgeous in the same way that early era John Carpenter films do. There’s a sheen and color saturation that’s just pleasing to the eye. Arrow was given the negative to work with and their 4K restoration is nothing short of amazing. The contrast levels, detail and black levels are all perfect. The transfer is so good in fact it may hamper the film’s more “elaborate” Makeup FX work.
- Brand new audio commentary with The Hysteria Continues
- Brand new interviews with cast and crew
- Alternate Opening Titles
- Theatrical Trailer, newly transferred in HD
With over two hours of content the disc is surprisingly stacked. The commentary by The Hysteria Continues (a podcast group of critics specializing in horror) is a great look into the history of the film and their comments on the proceedings are definitely welcome additions. The interviews with Edit Ivey, Director of Photography Roberto D’Ettorre Piazzoli and Director Ovidio G. Assonitis shed some light on not only the film but each discuss their career in general. The best is DP Piazzoli who discussed a lot of the “nuts and bolts” of the making of Madhouse in surprising detail for a 20 minute interview.
The Bottom Shelf: For my horror geeks out there… this one is for you. You’ll love it. It’s exactly what you expect from an Italian horror film circa 1981. Brilliance coupled with whack-a-mole lunacy.